Collecting Life: a Refugee’s Life Jacket from Lesvos

Today’s story is a re-blogged post (the first in a series of four) from the Thematic Collecting blog, by curator Bryan Sitch, about the important acquisition by Manchester Museum of a refugee’s life jacket from the Greek Island of Lesvos.

This acquisition is an example of the Museum’s ‘thematic collecting’ or ‘collecting for life’, marking a shift in the way that museums are thinking about their collections, and new ways of thinking about museums.

Thematic Collecting

Lesvos beach

A beach on the south east coast of Lesvos looking towards Mytilene

The prospect of visiting a Greek island is always an enticing one but arguably less so during the winter, and certainly not flying in low over the raging Aegean in a twin propellor aircraft, pitching and rolling and buffeted by strong winds, surrounded by fellow passengers crossing themselves. I was landing on the island of Lesvos.   My wife Christine and I had been on holiday to the island five years earlier, but that was before the refugee crisis in 2015 when literally hundreds of thousands of people fleeing the wars in Syria and Iraq crossed the short stretch of water that separates Lesvos from Turkey.

My visit to Lesvos in December 2016 was part of Manchester Museum’s thematic collecting or collecting for life project.  Earlier in the autumn the Collections Team curators met the director, Nick Merriman, and reframed the project so that it focused more…

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